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Christmas in jail for peace campaigners

An Italian peace activist was hospitalized Thursday after refusing to be deported from Israel.

Italian, Vittorio Arrigoni, 34, was injured yesterday evening when Israeli authorities tried to deport him and two other detained UK residents,from South Africa and Ausralia, by force, according to Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky. Lasky added that the authorities failed to notify her or the consulate of Vittorio’s injury and originally instructed their guards not to allow the three detainees to communicate with their attorney or concilate representatives.

Vittorio was returned yesterday to the detention centre at Tel Aviv airport. The three are being held after they were refused admission to Israel to attend a peace conference in Bethlehem. They will be spending their Christmas holidays in Israeli jail.

The three are experienced peace campaigners who were on their way to the “Celebrating Non-Violence” conference that starts on 27 December in Bethlehem. But when they tried to pass through Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on December 20, when the authorities detained them.

Only quick legal action by an Israeli lawyer prevented the three from being forcibly deported Thursday morning. They must now await the outcome of an appeal hearing, the date for which has yet to be set.

All three have worked previously as international observers in the Palestinian territories. All are members of Access for Peace in the Middle East, a pressure group that intends to challenge the criminalisation of peace workers and the deliberate isolation of Palestinians from international observation and assistance.

One of the detained activists, Robin Horsell, a UK-based South African who formerly campaigned against apartheid gave his reasons for fighting deportation: “Israel gives spurious grounds for deportation or refusal of entry. But the real reason is our support for human rights and justice. We hope this legal challenge sets a precedent that in future will allow international citizens full access to Palestinian lands.”

Many prominent peace campaigners support Access for Peace in the Middle East including Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Nonviolence International, European Jews for a Just Peace., Clare Short, George Monbiot, AngieZelter, and Jeremy Hardy.

For more information contact:
Attorney Gaby Lasky: 054 441 8988
Charlotte: +44 (0) 7768 305897, charlotte@ism-london.org

For details of the conference: http://www.celebratingnv.org
Access for Peace in the Middle East